Colorful Colorado

The drive from Lincoln to Colorado (Estes to be exact) wasn’t that big of a deal and we did it all on Saturday.  It’s amazing how flat the eastern part of Colorado is (it seems like no one ever mentions it)- then all of the sudden the mountains pop up out of nowhere and Colorado looks like all the pictures we’ve seen. Seeing the mountains in the distance was awesome- especially since we had been driving on a flat, unchanging landscape for hours, it finally felt like we were getting somewhere.  The first half of our trip was, of course, amazing, but Adam and I both couldn’t help looking at Colorado as sort of a beginning- the start of mountains and hiking and landscape that looks totally foreign to us.

We were completely unprepared for our first night in the beautiful state.  We figured we could easily find a campsite- since there are hundreds- it turns out, however, we completely underestimated Coloradans’ love of the mountains.  Every single campsite was full and we were beginning to worry that we’d have to just pull off to the side of the road and sleep in our car until a cop told us to move- this is made worse by the fact that our car is Completely Full and our seats will in no way recline.  Adam took the reigns and went into the ranger station near Longs Peak and asked the advice of some of the nicest park rangers that ever lived.  They told us about free dispersed camping just down the road- which also happened to be some of the best campsites Adam and I had ever been to (at least without having to sling backpacks on our backs and hike miles to seclusion- this site we drove right up to). We also got to use our hammock for the first time! IMG_3161I’m not sure Vera likes it as much as we do…  It was such a great night- the weather was perfect, we saw millions of stars (a cute little kiddo near us exclaimed that there were “30 stars!”), and we didn’t have to pay a dime for our stay.  It was actually hard to pack up camp the next morning and move on to our cabin in Raymond.

We did our first official Colorado Mountain Hike on Sunday morning.  It was a fairly steep incline that lead to a summit with breathtaking views of the Rockies.  IMG_5875 IMG_3165After our hike, we drove out to our tiny, cute little cabin, where we would spend the next couple of days.  IMG_3210We spent the week hiking, sitting by rivers, running, seeing amazing wildlife (like the giant elk that was 1 foot in front of our car!) and hanging out in Kind Coffee Shop (well, Adam wasn’t exactly hanging out, he was working).   FullSizeRender(6) FullSizeRender(5) On Thursday and Friday night we camped inside of Rocky Mountain National Park (at Glacier Basin)- it was beautiful, but we were so spoiled from the dispersed camping the first night- this didn’t really compare.  We decided to hike in the park on Saturday so we dropped Vera off at daycare (no dogs allowed in the National Parks)- which, though we missed her, was totally worth it.  The hike that day was amazing, and of course surrounded by snow-capped mountains.  IMG_6046 IMG_3221We hiked up Deer Mountain because we knew we wouldn’t have time for any of the bigger hikes since we couldn’t drop Vera off until 8 (one day we’ll come back and do a 14er!)- the afternoon thunderstorms are the real deal and we didn’t want to risk being on an exposed mountain top when one rolled in.

That night we stayed in Boulder and got to eat at Salt thanks to Mom and Dad G.!  It was such a nice treat after cooking on a camp stove for the past week.  On Sunday morning we woke up for a hike in El Dorado that was gorgeous before heading onward to Denver.  IMG_3224Our week in Denver was wonderful! It was, honestly, so, so nice to be back in a city- it definitely helped that we stayed in one of the best houses we’ve ever been in.  Adam went to the 360 idev conference for most of the week, while I cooked, ran through city streets, relished in the number of different languages I heard, took great yoga classes, and enjoyed our awesome little pretend home.   IMG_3227 Denver (and being back in a city) would have been awesome on its own, but it was made even better by seeing one of the best people I know- Laura!  It was so nice to see her and hear all about her new life in Colorado.  It’s going to be a strange year not teaching with all of my favorite CCAA people- I miss everyone so much already!  IMG_6066(1)We ended our stint in Colorado by camping in our all-time favorite Colorado Campsite along the Guanella Pass near Georgetown (an old and beautiful gold mining town).  IMG_3233 IMG_6084 IMG_3239Because of the spill in the Animas River, we had to change our original plans to visit the Grand Canyon and Escalante for the next week.  We decided that since Moab, Utah treated us so well the first time we visited, it wouldn’t be so bad to return- onward to the desert heat!

We are! Penn Sta… er… Nebraska!

We left Marfa, Texas and promptly headed north to the land of open restaurants (Santa Fe, New Mexico).  It was the first of three days of long, long drives.  For once we based our destination on something other than blindly following the internet- this time we have Newsies to thank for ending up in Santa Fe.

Aside from Adam singing rendition after rendition of the song, Santa Fe was a pretty nice place to stop over for the night.  We found a randomly really pretty park in the city at sunset and ate some pizza… which wasn’t so bad as long as you thought of it more as bread with a whole lot of toppings on it.  FullSizeRender(4)The next day we set out early for another long, long day of driving across the flat expanse of the Middle West.  Before we reached the Great Plains, however, we stopped off in the southeastern part of Colorado for a quick hike.

IMG_5941 It was beautiful and a really nice way to break up the drive.  That night we stayed in Burlington, Colorado- a tiny town off of I-70 where you can not even drink the water because nitrate levels are too high (we found out this is the case in most of Nebraska as well- something we thought we would have heard about before now…).  We only stopped in Burlington because I found great reviews online for this coffee shop– but it wasn’t open anyhow, so the stop was really just a midway point between Santa Fe and Lincoln.

Sunday was another long day of driving, but luckily Lincoln, Nebraska was waiting for us at the end of the trip and we wouldn’t have to drive again for another week.  The first thing I noticed when we got to Lincoln was how much it reminded me of Penn State- a smallish town that centers around a Big Ten school- but since our bed time is about the time college kids go out, the parties and late night drinking really had no effect on us (also there were no “WE ARE!!” cheers to wake us up in the middle of the night).

Lincoln was a nice break from figuring out the logistics of camping and finding food.  We took one road trip with some of Adam’s friends from work to eat at Modern Love (the vegan restaurant in Omaha)- it was great and a nice surprise considering we didn’t think we’d find much veggie-friendly food in beef country.  Speaking of veggie-friendly food, we did have a great veggie burger (ok… I went there twice… Adam went three times) and the ice cream we had was pretty great (no Ice Cream Show, but we’ll take it).  IMG_5947Vera finally got her staples out and is all healed!  (Thanks to the nicest vet ever!)IMG_5948

Overall, Nebraska was a great place to visit for a week, but the mountains are calling and we can’t wait until Colorado!

Only Open Thursday – Sunday (Maybe)

Last week was filled with tons of driving and more open space than we knew what to do with.  We left New Orleans with the plan of driving straight across the widest part of Texas towards Marfa.  This was based only on Internet Research, as is most of this trip- we wanted to see alien lights, eat some good food and hopefully have a decent cup of coffee.  Neither of us is into modern art- but we thought it would be cool to see Prada Marfa anyhow; little did we know the immense impact this modern art community has on a tiny place like Marfa, Texas.

But before we made it to Marfa, we stopped in both Houston and San Antonio.  Our Mexican Food tour continues and in both places we had some damn good Tex Mex (something we will surely miss once we are up north in Nebraska).   In Houston we pretty much stayed in our hotel, but in San Antonio we were pleasantly surprised by the river walk and even got to see the Alamo!IMG_1503

We didn’t go in, but we did get our picture taken out front!  We ate ice cream after dinner, and honestly it just made us miss The Ice Cream Show in Chattanooga (best. ice cream. ever.)- which means Chattanooga is two for two with best foods.   Overall though, aside from the immense amount of driving, the super quick tour of two Texas cities was a pleasant one.

Sunday was filled with long, long drives through flat Texas land.  We drove mostly along the US/Mexico border towards Marfa.  The land was as flat as a pancake until we got close to Big Bend National Park.  All of the sudden the landscape changed- it was absolutely beautiful.IMG_3088

We camped out at Tumble In RV Park and were the only two people there for most of the week.  Once in a while someone would pull in late for the night, but head out quickly the next morning.  The camp ground was great and had a kitchen and basically a garage where we hung out all week.IMG_3108

IMG_5274We were able to go running each morning down dirt roads towards town while the sun was rising.  IMG_6052

The beauty was nothing short of magical- the light each morning and night made every inch of the town look like a picture.  The natural beauty, however is basically where our love of Marfa ends.  Not one of the restaurants or coffee shops was open the entire time we were there (as Marfa is more of a ‘weekend vacation town’), and the more we learned about the town the more ridiculous it seemed.  People were coming from the NY and LA art scene to buy houses for nearly a million dollars!  We learned that many of the original residents aren’t too happy with the changes.  All of this was confirmed by a number of (obvious) outsiders dressed in vintage cowboy costumes at the bar one night.  It was also confirmed when we google searched Marfa real estate.  Overall, however, none of this could ruin the beautiful Texas skies and the gorgeous Davis Mountains (not to mention the adorable little town of Alpine about thirty minutes away that had amazing Mexican food).  It was also pretty cool to see Prada Marfa out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a glorious sunset.IMG_3102